He has given his angels charge over you to guard your in all your ways,” the Psalmist confidently proclaims (Psalm 91:11).
“These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence; respect for the presence of the angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection,” said St. Bernard of Clairvaux. “Why then are we afraid?”
Starting with the feast of the Guardian Angels on Oct. 2, it’s high time we get to know and call on our own heavenly bodyguard — who is concerned not so much with warding off bullies and bandits as with watching over our everlasting souls. And with interceding for us just as our friends the saints do.
Scripture is filled with examples of angels fulfilling these duties, points out Father Titus Kieninger of the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross. The order administrates Opus Sanctorum Angelorum (OpusAngelorum.org), an international movement promoting devotion and consecration to the holy angels.
The priest notes that Exodus 23:20 gives the basics: “See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” And Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel (18:10), advances the advice: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
“The angels have influence over everything,” explains Father Kieninger, who recommends parents read the Book of Tobit. “The holy angels can direct, guard, defend and alert us even through secondary causes. If young people won’t listen to their consciences, there still is the possibility the angel can arrange the circumstances so it works out well for us.”
The priest tells the story of a woman whose daughter was headed to Las Vegas with her boyfriend. Worried over the temptations awaiting her daughter in “Sin City,” the mother went into her daughter’s bedroom and implored the help of the young woman’s guardian angel. Half an hour later the daughter called to say she had cancelled the trip.
Action Over Words
Terry and Mary Barber of West Covina, Calif., have taught their four children to pray the Guardian Angel Prayer in every situation. Now 11 to 18 years old, “The kids know it’s the natural disposition to ask for help from the angels,” says Terry, who is founder of St. Joseph Communications, the popular distributor of recorded Catholic talks.
In the car the Barbers say the prayer, asking their heavenly champions to pray for safe travel on the road and for strength to resist sin always.
Through Opus Angelorum, Barber says, he’s learned to live in the awareness that his guardian angel is in the perpetual presence of God. He and Mary have passed this helpful mindset along to their children with this reminder: “When you have peer pressure in school, you ask your guardian angel to help you stand up for what’s right.”
Father Kieninger shares a wealth of insight about our guardian angels. In our morning prayer, he says, we should ask him to guide us through the day, understand every minute what God wants, and help us not to offend the Lord. Then we trust and go ahead with the good common sense God has given us.
The priest notes that the angels communicate through our intellect, thoughts, interior feelings, circumstances they arrange, and interior and exterior words we hear.
“The angels don’t give great sermons,” he says, pointing to St. Peter heeding the angel in Acts 12:7-11. “They are short with words.
“They rarely speak a great time ahead, but just direct the moment,” adds the priest. “When you’re guided by the angels, you do not have to think too much. You obey, but be prudent.”
If we have trouble discerning whether an impulse is being sent to us from God — whether through our guardian angel or directly — it’s wise to ask our angel for greater clarity, says Father Kieninger. Then apply these questions: Is it against the Ten Commandments? Does it lead to our own glory or to God’s glory? Does it bring us lasting peace or make us feel fearful, anxious or ashamed?
“Angels never say anything against Church teachings or love of neighbor,” he says. “If there’s a love of neighbor in conformity with the love of God, we can trust.”
In Anchorage, Alaska, Judith Helzer finds very little disturbs her peace in daily life. Why? Because in morning prayer she asks her guardian angel to greet the guardian angel of each person she will meet that day “so everything works according to God’s will.”
This practice, she says, even helps lighten the burden of social obligations that come with her husband Eric’s business. Such occasions “are not my cup of tea,” says Helzer, who made a guardian angel consecration through Opus Angelorum. So she sends her guardian angel ahead to smooth out the situation. “It turns out I have a great time. It’s not drudgery at all.”
Father Kieninger refers to the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy for two important cautions. First, we mustn’t think everything in our lives, including our thoughts, is the work of spirits — to do so would be to deny our God-given free will. And second, we should not name our angels or call on any by name except for the three archangels in the Bible (Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael — whose feast we also celebrate this week). We should simply pray to “my guardian angel,” says Father Kieninger.
He also advises avoiding petitions for very specific intentions: What we should seek is not so much what we’d like to have, but what God wills for us. “It’s very important to be open,” he says,” so the angels can give some correction.”
As St. Bernard counseled, we have to show the angels respect, gratitude and love. Offering holy Communion for our guardian angel, these experts agree, is a wonderful way to say “Thank you.”
“Our guardian angel,” adds Terry Barber, “is our best friend.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.